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Japanese public broadcaster NHK has devised a range of programming and technological responses to the coronavirus outbreak which has disrupted normal life and forced millions of people to live and work from home.

The license fee-funded company says its objective is to help people remain calm and informed. And its solutions stretch from the innovative to the precautionary.

Excluding those virus cases brought in on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Japan has recorded 889 instances of the Covid-19 disease to date. There have been 29 deaths.

NHK launched a virus information portal in January, and says it aims to avoid an infodemic by monitoring and curating the best information from around the world about the virus. Its own reporting on medical and social issues is being packaged as documentaries, many with English-language versions for use on its NHK World channel and for international syndication. A daily magazine show also carries practical information, such as how to make surgical face masks at home, when stores run out, and optimal diets for at-risk elderly folk.

All schools have been shut since the beginning of March, and are set to remain so until April at the earliest. NHK’s role in home education and distance learning has been stepped up through the use of subchannels (TV channels created using frequencies not used for other purposes) and websites to deliver programs for children seamlessly without distinction between broadcast and digital.

Content ranges from educational content, especially science and history, series that children and their parents can enjoy together, and other shows encouraging children to do physical exercise in the afternoons. Many programs include subtitles for children with hearing disabilities. The NHK for School website offers video playlists for different school years, third party recommendations, and a branch enabling feedback and reviews, called “Watching Alone, Not Learning Alone.”

School graduation ceremonies, many normally set for March, are going online too.

And, recognizing that living together in cramped conditions can make some family problems worse, NHK is running a domestic abuse awareness campaign. The initiative began even before the coronavirus lockdown, and is now being rerun and expanded.

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